Comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable

Comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable

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  • Category Archives Northern Ireland
  • Ronan Kerr

    Ronan Kerr One year on,

    Posters that I often see pasted to the walls in inner city Dublin proudly proclaim the creation of a new political youth movement. The name of they have given themselves is the ‘Fianna Éireann Independent Republican Youth Movement.’ Below this is a picture of a suitably military looking male figure wearing sunglasses and a green beret. I’m sure this is an image which strikes fear into the very heart of the British establishment.

    One of their key policies is the “campaign for an end to British rule and a united Ireland.” They are also involved in political protests, fundraising and they also seem to have some sort of marching band. This all may appear harmless enough in the context of this Republican youth club, but as any even casual follower of the recent history of our Island will be able to tell you, once you have a cause you can then justify almost anything in the service of it, no matter how twisted, barbaric or misguided it may be.

    There are many families throughout Ireland who have lost loved ones on the back of these ideals. One such family is the Kerr family who had to bury 25 year old PC Ronan Kerr last April. The concept that some sort of a hierarchy of victims exists is one that is often talked about in the context of Northern Ireland, and while this may be the perception of some families, any life taken in such a way, should be viewed with deep regret and anger from every community on this Island.

    I was born in Belfast in 1985. PC Kerr was born a few miles down in road in Omagh in 1986. I never had the opportunity to meet PC Kerr. But we did share two things in common we were both born into the Nationalist community in a society that was in the process of tearing itself apart, and we both experienced attack by paramilitaries.

    My family’s home was pipe bombed by the U.V.F. in 1993, as my late Step-Father was involved in the SDLP, it made us “a viable target”. PC Kerr’s life was ended in tragic irony by dissident Republicans who in trying to derail the peace process took the opportunity to end a young man’s life simply because he was a Catholic serving in the P.S.N.I.

    The U.V .F. members that served with distinction and valour on the fields of France during the 1st World War would never have thought that decades later on the streets of Belfast its name would be synonymous with mayhem, murder and misery.
    The I.R.A. of the same era would also never have imagined that people claiming to support the same cause that they did would lie in wait for a young man on his way to work and kill him purely for his choice of occupation and his religion. Or indeed target a packed market town on a busy Saturday afternoon as was done in 1998 in Omagh, which resulted in the deaths of 29 people and two unborn babies, which was and still is the biggest single loss of life of the whole troubles.

    It is often said that the winners write the history books, but in the case of the last 40 years of the troubles there have been no winners. If any sort of collective reflection ever takes place it will have few people who come out of it with any credit, with some notable exceptions aside such as John Hume, Bertie Ahern and Tony Blair, who love them or loath them did make the hard yards to peace possible.

    These dissident Republicans, who murdered PC Kerr, are the very people who years before during the dark days of the troubles would have purported to be the great defenders of the Nationalist community against Loyalist paramilitaries and the security forces. It is of no comfort then that in 2011 these same people though it was justified to coldly and callously commit murder for some grandiose ideal of a united Ireland.

    Why was this 25 year old man murdered for just going to work? Well one of the main motivations behind the targeting of Catholics serving in the P.S.N.I. is to try and stop their integration into the police service and therefore prevent mainly Nationalist and Republican communities from fully engaging with P.S.N.I.

    The targeting of serving Catholic Police officers by dissidents is nothing new. In January 2010 another serving Catholic P.S.N.I. officer, PC Peadar Heffron was seriously injured when a car bomb exploded under his car. PC Heffron was the Captain of the P.S.N.I.’s Gaelic Football team and was also a keen Irish language enthusiast.

    These attacks are not just attacks on the P.S.N.I they are an attack on the people of Ireland who overwhelmingly voted in favour of the terms of the Good Friday Agreement and the promise of peace and prosperity that it contained.
    Make no mistake about it foreign direct investment into the Irish economy on both sides of the boarder would not be going ahead at such a speed if the political situation in the North had remained as unstable as it had been.

    So in that regard these Catholic police officers that cross the divide to serve the whole community are working for a better future for all of us on this Island, not just those of us north of Newry. In 2016 while many will sombrely remember those that died trying to establish independence for Ireland, I hope that people such as PC Kerr are also in their thoughts as they too made the ultimate sacrifice in service to their country.

    It has been almost a year since the murder of PC Kerr and no one has yet been charged in connection with PC Kerr’s murder. Detective Superintendent Raymond Murray who is in charge of the investigation into the killing of PC Kerr, said that “This is a long-term investigation with Ronan Kerr’s murder at its core but incorporating several linked incidents. It is an extremely large investigation which, as we said at the outset, will rely on detail to succeed and can be progressed with continuing support from the community.”

    The P.S.N.I. has also confirmed that the investigation into Constable Kerr’s murder and a linked series of incidents is one of the most extensive since the Omagh bombing in 1998. The P.S.N.I. have also appealed for information about a number of unidentified vehicles and one unidentified man in the area around where explosion which claimed PC Kerr’s life took place.

    However in trying to destabilise the peace process, PC Kerr’s murder actually had the opposite effect, representatives from all sides of the community came together to show their sympathy and solidarity with the Kerr family.
    At the time of the murder, PC Kerr’s mother Nuala Kerr said that “We all need to stand up and be counted and to strive for equality, we don’t want to go back into the dark days again of fear and terror. We were so proud of Ronan and all that he stood for. Don’t let his death be in vain.”PC Kerr was also survived by his two brothers, Cathair and Aaron and a sister, Dairine. Pc Kerr’s Father passed away in 2008 after suffering a long term brain tumour.

    The pictures of members of the P.S.N.I the GAA and representatives of every political party and both main religions gave a clear message to those that would seek to drag us once more into bloody conflict that you are yesterday’s men and enough people have died for your ideals.

    We who were the original 99% need to make sure it’s the last, this can best be achieved by the education and the integration of those who still harbour and disseminate extremist views and beliefs, and as many people struggle to put enough food on the table it should also be remembered that as the man said “you can’t eat flags for breakfast.”

    Anyone with information on this case should contact the P.S.N.I in Omagh on +44 (0)28 8225 6687

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  • Pain in the Aras

    On the 6th of October President McAleese was giving a speech to Ballymena Chamber of Commerce. In her speech the President said that “The past, for Ballymena like so many parts of Northern Ireland was a troubled and troubling place. But this is now a time of transformation, a time when we have seen the North’s citizens come out from under the clouds caused by division into the light of good neighbourliness and partnership.”

    The very fact that the President comes from the North of Ireland gives her much greater credibility in her public engagements in the North. It would be hard to imagine any of the current presidential candidates being able to address the unionist population of Northern Ireland with such ease. This is clearly a crucial presidency for Ireland and for it’s reputation, as has been widely discussed in the media the president that is elected on the 27th of October will be the 1st citizen of a nation desperately trying to reestablish it’s place among it’s European neighbours. If that was not enough they will also over see the 100 year anniversary of the 1916 commemorations.

    Clearly their has been some major political grandstanding by some people around the issue of Martin McGuinness and his  past in the IRA. Perhaps Eammon Dunphy summed up how many feel on the subject when he commented that “you can not have Nelson Mandela as a hero and a Martin McGuinness as a criminal. However their are some people that will never be able to see past the dark deeds of the IRA and the countless atrocities it committed.

    Whatever side of the fence you fall on it is clear that at this stage in the race McGuiness remains in touch with both Michael D, and Sean Gallagher according to the latest polls. However what many papers do not make cleat in this statistics is the fact that their is a 3 per cent margin of error attached to each candidates popular support. This rather muddy’s the waters as it effectively means that anyone who is with in 5 per cent of anyone else is effectively neck and neck in the mind of the voters.

    It is not clear who will win this race yet, but one thing is clear who ever the eventual winner is they will not be looking forward to their first address to the Ballymena Chamber of Commerce.


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  • A society divided

    Despite the recent improvements in cross-community relations in Belfast over the last decade, there are still deep divisions that exist. One of the most notable of these is in the education system where still despite all the funding for cross community programmes and the rise of integrated education the reality is that children from catholic and protestant backgrounds are mainly educated separately.

    This is a depressing hangover of the years of conflict that have taken place throughout Northern Ireland. The point being that it is the children of the North that will shape the future constructs of its society and if they are mainly educated in separate institutions the only result will be the self perpetuation of the problem.

    We need a more secular society free from the constraints of religious interference in our education system. Parents should be free to raise their children in whatever faith they choose but that must not be at the cost of yet another generation.

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  • Northern Ireland Budget

    Northern Irelands Executive has agreed to budget cuts of 4 billion. This will include education cut backs of 67 million and regional development cut backs of 63 million.

    There will be some extra money for job creation and to help social need. The health budget will increase by £326m, but there will be cuts in social services .Finance minister Mr Wilson said there were no plans for water charges over the next four years.

    He also confirmed in the draft budget that the regional rate, the portion of rates collected by Stormont, will increase by inflation in the same period. There will be a 15p plastic bag levy while 12,000 civil servants face a two-year pay freeze.

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